Hail to the chef

Director John Wells’ Burnt finds Bradley Cooper playing yet another of those tormented, self-loathing, but resilient underdogs that the actor seems to be specializing in.

In this case, he’s Adam Jones, a hot-shot chef whose rapid rise to the top of the food chain (so to speak) was exceeded only by his spectacular fall due to drink, drugs and rampant ego. Now he’s in London, on the comeback trail, trying to cook his way back to the top.

The London locations are as appetizing as the dishes on display – vegetarians are hereby forewarned – but Burnt is strictly formula fare. Nice to look at and sometimes entertaining, but rarely surprising.

It’s fun watching Cooper as he wields cutlery, barks orders, hurls insults and, occasionally, cookware too. He plays the role with conviction and considerable charisma, and offers further proof that Cooper is a bona-fide movie star. Even after going on a bender, he still looks at if he just stepped off the cover of GQ Magazine.

Onscreen, he has good rapport with Miller (with whom he starred in last year’s American Sniper) as a fellow chef and a resident romantic interest, Matthew Rhys, Omar Sy, Riccardo Scamarcio, and Daniel Bruhl, the latter playing the restaurateur who gambled on Adam in the past and does so again. In a late, rather arbitrary, plot twist, Bruhl’s character turns out to have nursed a long crush on Adam. It scarcely matters one way or the other.

Also on hand, although to little effect, are Emma Thompson, Uma Thurman and Alicia Vikander – merely adding a few marquee names to the cast.

With Cooper front and center, Wells keeps the film watchable and reasonably well-paced, but ultimately the level of corn syrup and saccharine saturates the proceedings, turning Burnt into a soap opera … or, if you prefer, a “soup” opera. !

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